The land has always beckoned to me. Quietly, consistently, and seductively inviting me to get lost in its magic. Even when I lived in Brooklyn as a kid I sought the out-of-the-way places that drew me into a deeper relationship with nature: an empty and overgrown lot, a city park, or the river walkway along the Verrazano Bridge.
When I was 16, my parents told me we were moving upstate. I wanted to dislike their decision. I even wanted to hate it. After all, my friends were in Brooklyn, and I built a life I knew there. And while the move from a large apartment on Prospect Park West to a small trailer in the middle of nowhere was a culture shock of epic proportions, it took my spark of a connection with the natural world and set it on fire.
As I settled into this new way of being, I started exploring. Our trailer park bumped up against a large forest. I had no idea how large at the time. After some research, I learned I was living on the edge of the Catskill Forest Preserve—700,000 acres of mountains, streams, and hiking trails. The Catskill Mountains are not mountains in the traditional sense. They are the remains of river deposits from the older eroded Acadian Mountains to the east. This land was once part of the Lenapehoking, the original territory of the Munsee-speaking Lenni Lenape indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands. I also discovered that the Shawangunk Mountain Range rested on the other side of the valley, full of world-renowned limestone cliffs and ledges. These realizations revealed another pathway that deepened my intimacy with the land.
Small forays into the woods became multi-day backpacking trips. Short visits to streams turned into long paddle excursions on lakes and rivers. Bicycle rides around the trailer park became mountain bike trips among the dwarf pines of The Gunks. An occasional visit into the preserve wasn’t enough; I wanted more time. For many years, the forest was the adventurous stage for me to challenge myself. I suppose in some way my relationship with those lands was still primarily about me. What was the next summit to climb, the next river to paddle, the next trail to add to my list? Somewhere along the way something changed. I realized that aiming for a trip’s finish line made me miss what happened on the journey. I overlooked subtle elements that could easily get lost in the background: a blade of grass, a small stone, an ant. As nature became a beloved in my life, I wanted to see and appreciate every aspect of it. Little by little, nature was pulling me deeper into its embrace—an embrace that has sustained me through tough times while also bringing me deeper into myself.
The natural world gives us so much, especially when we are open and encourage a relationship with it. Like an old friend or family member, the natural world seeks our attention, desires our love. To fully experience the gifts nature has to offer us, we must see nature in its complete expression, in its beauty and power, and also in its suffering, and lean in to engage with it. Like all relationships, we give and we take.
The land needs each one of us. The Olympic Mountain EarthWisdom Circle (OMEC) encourages all of us to build a sacred and responsible relationship with the Earth. One way we do that is through our land projects. In 2019, OMEC adopted Pillar Point on the Olympic Peninsula. To become an official steward of this land and its coastal waters, we worked closely with Clallam County and CoastSavers.org. Over the past three years, we have organized several clean-up events, along with land and water blessings.
After a 30 year-long love affair with the land that captivated me as a teenager, a land I know deep in my bones, I’m honored to now lead a new land project in the VerNooy Kill Forest, a subsection of the Catskill Preserve. While this land is majestic and captivating, there are areas that need our attention and care. After our application with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is approved, we will begin leading groups into the forest for trail and streamside clean-ups, as well as land and water blessings. I have an inner knowing that this project will only strengthen my connection with the land that stole my heart long ago.
I hope to see you all out in the woods.
From my heart to yours,
Christopher T. Franza RN/Board of Directors, OMEC
Just last week the landscape was cloaked in grey, still sleeping in winter’s blanket. And now, life unfurls in all directions—slowly opening a little more each day with brighter bursts of color. Winter was the great inhale—the inward journey into the darkness, into hibernation. And today, on the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the great exhale has arrived. Birds sing. Flowers pop. Rabbits run. This seasonal turning point beckons the perfect balance of night and day, each expressed at equal length, calling us to join in a harmonious dance with all of life.
I sink my hands into the rich, dark soil of the garden my husband, Matt, and I started one year ago. With great care and attention, we’ve tended this soil—adding layer by layer of compost and woodchips. I smile as I uncover earthworms, overflowing with gratitude for the soil’s vibrancy and creative potential. The green onions, kale, arugula, brussel sprouts, and broccoli that we planted in the fall are going to seed—completing their lifecycle. These seeds are shaped by the previous year, providing a strength that can only be known from the carving of past experience. In the coming weeks, following the last frost, we will bury our spring vegetable seeds and begin the cycle again, this time with a bit more wisdom and humility than when we started this journey.
We bought our home and half-acre lot with the dream of building an urban homestead. Although we had no experience, a deep calling to live more harmoniously with nature gave us the courage and commitment to embark on this path. After experiencing years of frustration with the construction industry’s destructive practices, Matt quit his career as a structural engineer to lead the project. I continued working my job to bring in financial support, along with providing research assistance and an extra pair of hands. Little by little, we’ve come to live our dream more each day. Just as the turn into a new season reminds us of change, the transformation of our land reminds me of the renewal we’ve also experienced within—a profound internal renovation cultivated by our relationship with nature. As we started to live more harmoniously with our land, we also experienced more harmony within ourselves.
Unlike the master mindset that has precipitated and perpetuated startling levels of destruction, we see ourselves as stewards of the land. We plant native species to provide food for animals and insects—expressing gratitude for all they do while also kindly guiding them away from our garden. Through this, we’ve also started to treat ourselves more gently, no longer forcing our bodies to operate in a particular way or pushing for sparks of creative insight to emerge. Our need for control has started to loosen its grasp. With the same loving hands we use to tend to the land, we also lovingly tend to ourselves.
As the sun breaks through the wisp of a cloud, I find another acorn burrowed in the soil taking root. My bucket is full of them. One after another, these acorns grip into the Earth, eager to grow. The weeds are also relentless. I pluck them and whisper loving blessings, honoring their life. I’m amazed by nature’s resiliency, its propensity to multiply, flourish, and recover. Even after devastating storms and manmade interference, life springs forth: a small flower busts through a crevice, a deer creeps over downed trees, a seed splits. As I reflect on my personal history and the scars that remain from thick pain, I still stand. In moments where I’m brought to my knees, writhing in darkness, stripped down to the bone, I know my reclamation day will come once again. Life isn’t fragile. We will carry on.
I empty the bucket of weeds and acorns into the forest for them to decompose. After a long day’s work, my body yearns for rest. I lie on the cool ground, resting there, basking in the light. A dreamlike wave swallows me, and I hover in the liminal space of the conscious and unconscious. There’s nothing to do, no need to rush into the next moment. Time drops. I float in the expansive now. Before Matt and I started building this place, I would run everywhere. I was consistently behind. There was always something else to chase, another achievement to catch, one more check to make on the to-do list. Striving drained me. I fed the future. And when I did, I starved myself. My relationship with our land liberated me from the race. The urge to perform and prove faded away. And now, like the tree that doesn’t exist as anything but a tree, I also exist as I am, in this moment. Acceptance feels like freedom.
If you seek a more harmonious relationship with the Earth and yourself, I recommend exploring the programs and books available through the Olympic Mountain EarthWisdom Circle (OMEC). The OMEC mission is to encourage a sacred and responsible relationship with the Earth and preserve the ancient wisdom ways of indigenous shamanic cultures. Harmony calls out within us and beyond us. I hope you answer.
From my heart to yours,
OMEC Board Member
A bald eagle majestically opens its wings, scanning the dark waters below for a fish to catch. Blue herons stand nearby on exposed, barnacle-covered rocks keeping watch. The tide recedes. The wind roars. Looming overhead in the distance evergreen trees reach for the sky, casting shadows on jagged rocks. The Coast Salish, S’Klallam, and other local people mindfully harvest shellfish. All of nature sings. This is Pillar Point—a beach on the Olympic Peninsula along the Strait of Juan de Fuca coastline.
Pillar Point invites us to slow down, do less, and open to the splendor of its energy. With the frenzied pace and information overload of modern living, we need the gifts Pillar Point has to offer us. The demands of life can get stuck in our system, building up debris that impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, nature’s healing forces have the power to cleanse us.
While there is much inspiration and healing to receive from the creatures, elements, and energies that inhabit Pillar Point, we also have much to give. Just as nature washes away our burdens, nature is renewed by us as well.
In 2019, the Olympic Mountain Earthwisdom Circle (OMEC) adopted Pillar Point. To become an official steward of this land and its coastal waters, we worked closely with Clallam County and CoastSavers.org. Over the past three years, we have organized seven clean-up events. As we walk along the water’s edge gathering garbage that has washed up on shore, we breathe in the life around us. We receive its blessings. We are purified. After cleaning up debris, we gather together for a land and water blessing, expressing gratitude for all the Earth does for us—for its healing, nourishment, and inspiration.
This year, we have organized three clean-up events. We invite anyone who can attend in person to follow the current Washington State Covid-19 health and safety regulations and join us. If you do not live near Pillar Point, you can still participate virtually in the clean-up activities along with the land and water blessing. We will respectfully record the beauty and enchantment of nature all around us. The dates for this year’s clean-up events are:
• April 22, 2021 (Honoring Earth Day Coastal Clean-up)
• July 10, 2021 (OMEC Coastal Clean-up)
• Sept 18, 2021 (OMEC & International Coastal Clean-up)
Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a video link approximately three days prior to the event or to learn more about attending in-person. Please visit our website for more information about the Pillar Point Project. I hope you will join us in honoring the symbiotic relationship we share with this very special place.
From my heart to yours,
Director of OMEC’s Pillar Point Project
As I hung my new Gregorian calendar a few weeks ago, I wondered:
Will life return to the “old normal” during 2021?
Do we even want the “old normal” to return?
Many of us have felt the loss of being with loved ones and community members in person, and yet, we continue to find ways to connect.
As one of the Olympic Mountain EarthWisdom Circle’s (OMEC) HEARTH Project Directors, I, along with other healers and facilitators across the country, host monthly HEARTH Circles with local community members.
In HEARTH Circles, we find our way back home to Heart and Earth and kindle our passion for nature in community. We ignite our inner wisdom fires so we can share our “art”—our unique, embodied, creative expression that honors all life. I’m nourished and inspired when I join together with others in person to provide a sacred healing container.
As physical distance became the new way of interacting, my co-director, Lori Ferry, OMEC’s Llyn Roberts and Rob Murphy, and I turned to providing a different kind of support for HEARTHs and HEARTH facilitators. As we made this shift, I took time to contemplate.
My HEARTH Circle had been just that—a circle. Every month, we had gathered around a seasonally themed altar on the floor in a room scented by Palo Santo, with soft music in the background. We looked in each other’s eyes as we shared what inspired us and also what weighed heavily on our hearts. We gave and received energy through light touch and held hands as we offered names of loved ones in need of healing.
I wondered, how I could possibly replicate the power and connectedness of these in-person HEARTH Circles in a virtual platform.
The truth is, I could not. Then, I realized that instead of replicating that experience, we could shapeshift it.
While the ambience of in-person gatherings is lovely, the community that we build through supporting each other and the Earth transcends physical distance. When I stopped trying to replicate my altar setup in limited space so it would look good on Zoom and switched to an audio-only conference call format, my HEARTH Circle was reborn. Instead of holding one another’s hands, we practice deep listening. We are energetically attuned and present with each other. We are still a circle, even if we are not physically sitting in one.
Meanwhile, Llyn and Rob established an audio HEARTH for the whole OMEC community. Held every other month, these online HEARTH Circles offer spiritual nourishment and connection to nature through ceremony and/or a guided shamanic journey. 100% of a participant’s donation supports OMEC’s indigenous projects.
When Lori and I set intentions for the HEARTH project in August 2019, we envisioned smaller circles within larger circles connecting all of OMEC’s community of support. Our vision holds. We have simply redefined, and as a result, have expanded the HEARTH Circle community.
May you always find circles of connection in the unfolding new world.
From my heart to yours,
OMEC HEARTH Project Co-Director
If you leave any forest alone to do its thing, that forest will continue an endless process of growth and creation. Now, there might be infighting among species: Animals may eat other animals, diseases might infect some of the plant life, seasons will come and go, and there may be a brush fire or drought. But, left to its own devices, the overall direction of that forest will always be moving toward growth and creation. This is the energy of Nature. That which moves the tides, spins the Earth, grows the trees, shines the sun and beats your heart is made of this same energy, and it pervades everything that exists.
To align with the indigenous wisdom of the shamans is to revere Nature. The reason anyone would revere something is because they are inspired by it and they want to align with it and emulate it, because it has something to teach them. Nature’s immeasurable interconnectivity, holism and its constant expression of growth show us who we are. In Nature, there is no separation; everything is connected and working together, and if it is a cooperative and connected universe, then that means that we are each an inextricable part of that interdependence.
The underlying intention of Nature is love. Why would the forest always move in the direction of growth and creation other than its loving and joyful intention to experience more of itself?
So, in order for us to emulate the forest, we must allow ourselves to want with abandon, to say “yes” to our own growth, and to organize the choices we make and the actions we take in such a way that we always include love’s perspective. After all, the forest always reaches toward the sun, opens to the rain, extends itself downward into the soil, and grasps toward life however it can; it never turns on itself or denies itself what it yearns for or what is good for it, and if we want to be like the forest (as any shaman would), then neither should we.
According to Huna, the spiritual philosophy of the Hawaiian shamans, there are seven principles — seven Hawaiian words — that are the seeds of an ancient philosophy that we can each follow to help us to create lives that are in alignment with the power of Nature.
Bring to mind something that you would like to manifest or create. Then, meditate on the Huna principles. The questions provided will help you use the principles to receive guidance on the subject that you have chosen:
• IKE — Your thoughts create your world. This principle is not just saying that the way you think about the world will reflect your personal experience of the world, it is also stating that reality itself will energetically and physically shift, based on how you think about it.
If your thoughts co-create your reality, what are your habitual thoughts and beliefs about what you want to manifest?
• KALA — Limitlessness is the true nature of reality. This principle teaches that you are connecting to everything in existence, and that absolutely anything is possible if you can figure out how to do it.
If there are no limits, then what impedes your freedom to create what you want—fear, doubt, cynicism, stress, financial concerns, rules, or social constructs?
• MAKIA — Our attention and focus attract creative energy. This principle explains that our focus and attention elicit the creative energies that manifest physical reality.
If creative energy responds to what you focus on, are you giving enough of focus and attention to what you want to create?
• MANAWA — The only place to access power is in the Now. This principle reminds us that because the past is gone, and the future is not yet born, we can only actually do anything right now.
If the now is only place to access power, what behaviors, thoughts and habits take you away from the present moment?
• ALOHA — Love is the creation of happiness. This principle tells us that when we include love’s perspective in our choices, the result is always joy.
How can you increase love and happiness in your creative process?
• MANA — Your personal power is divine power. This principle teaches that we exist in an infinitely powerful universe, and that powerful infinitude converges at the point called “yourself.”
If all the power of the universe is within you, do you have the self-esteem, the personal will and the faith that will support what you want to create?
• PONO — If it works, then it’s true. This principle says that effectiveness is the measure of what is considered truth.
If what is true is measured only by results, then do you need to adjust your process or be more creative or flexible in order to create what you want?
When passing on esoteric wisdom, a Hawaiian might say, He mau makana nâu kêia na kô mâkou kûpuna, which means “These are the gifts for you from our elders.” The seven principles are, indeed, a special offering from the ancient ones. With awareness (Ike), freedom (Kala), focus (Makia), presence (Manawa), love (Aloha), confidence (Mana), and flexibility (Pono), there is nothing under the sun that you can’t reach and accomplish, and no height of imagination beyond which you cannot explore.
To be like the forest is to yearn to grow and to claim your deep belongingness on this planet. Give yourself the gift of following your heart’s longings. Tend to your wants and dreams with love and watch them blossom into being.
From My Heart to yours,
OMEC Board of Directors
Jonathan Hammond is a Shamanic Reiki Worldwide Core Faculty member. He has recently released his book The Shaman’s Mind: Huna Wisdom to Change Your Life.
Thanks to your support, OMEC continues to send funds to several groups of Mayan spiritual guides in the Guatemalan highlands. The monies are used to purchase ceremonial supplies in order to conduct the ancient Maya fire ceremony.
You will find below, a recent note of gratitude from one of the families we sponsor.
View a beautiful short video depicting the spiritual guides conducting ceremony in Guatemala (and also scroll to the bottom of the page to view new photos) here:
Mayan Sacred Fire Fund
From my heart to yours,
Llyn Cedar Roberts
Dear Llyn and OMEC:
Sorry for the delay, we share the ceremony with you on the 13th Tijax (07/30/2020), a specific day to ask for the health of the family, the community and the whole world. Aware that both nationally and internationally many diseases are occurring; so we decided to carry out this ceremony, praying to the creator, to the cosmic energies of healing and blessing, to the ancestors and to mother earth for the light, peace and health of all beings on our planet earth and the universe. .
Once again, we thank you and OMEC for the support you are giving us to carry out these ceremonies. May our creator multiply them (these blessings of the ceremonies) spiritually as well as materially.
Dona Ernestina and Don Marco
What an extraordinary time we find ourselves in. In the Northeastern United States, where I live, as far as humanity was concerned, March came in not "like a lion and out like a lamb", as the saying goes; instead, the reverse happened.
A pandemic, first thought by many of us to only be affecting far-away places, came to our own shores. We realized that regardless of where we are in the world, we're in this together. Fear was palpable as we isolated at home. While some eased into isolation, others faced chaos and loss. Civil unrest then stirred the world of humans, accelerating the upheaval and change. I found this frightening and hopeful at the same time.
Throughout all, for me nature is present and steady. The sights and sounds of spring filled our lives as my family and I watched - week after week, and often from our windows. Here in the Northeast, the rain fell heavily in April and May. June days were filled with a mix of rain, sunshine, and temperatures soaring into the 90s. And now summer is here. In accord with the pandemic guidelines we have gone outside for walks or bike rides. Those of us in the OMEC and Shamanic Reiki Worldwide communities, "Aimlessly Wander" and keep up our practices to nourish our bodies, hearts and connection with nature. We appreciate these practices even more; 'medicine' that soothes our souls and keeps us grounded and present.
I walk frequently in the woods for respite from all that is playing out. It is comforting to know that Mayan elders are enacting ancient fire ceremonies in Guatemala - to benefit humanity and nature by offering healing prayers. OMEC donations help to buy supplies for these ceremonies. Keeping the sacred fires burning is essential at this time. The ceremonies offer energy and prayers to transmute disharmony for us, and nature. Continuing to enact traditional fire rituals is a great support to the Mayan people, whose communities are also suffering at this time.
Here in the states, as our family business is considered essential, we've remained open. I didn't want to go to work, yet I was needed. I have shapeshifted each morning; composing myself to hold the container for others. Yet, as tragedy began to play out, many days I felt like a duck in water - appearing visibly calm on the surface while paddling like crazy underneath. Sometimes financial fears drained me.
Then I received a dream message: "wealth is in the wisdom of the ancestors".
Generations before us have faced many challenges. They found ways to regain their hopefulness and stability.
I listen to their voices now and realize that within this powerful time, this perfect storm for true change - the voices of all of our ancestors call to us. They ask us to awaken from our slumber; to remember who we are.
This is a time indigenous people of many cultures have prophesied. Is Mother Earth giving us a time out? Perhaps so, to listen to the voices of the ancestors and our own inner voices; to change how we live and come into balance with all aspects of the web of life.
Coinciding with the Summer Solstice, a rare alignment of a new moon and solar eclipse occurred. To me this felt like a sign from Pachamama (Mother Earth, Mother Time, Mother Universe) - telling us to take a quantum leap to cultivate peace and harmony for all.
I am grateful to work with OMEC, whose mission is to promote a sacred and responsible relationship with the Earth and to preserve the ancient wisdom of indigenous people. Our original peoples offer tools, perspectives and ceremonial practices that humanity needs now, more than ever. These provide our best hope to nurture the generations yet to come.
Thank you for honoring the Earth. Thank you for contributing to help OMEC preserve the wisdom and practices of ancient peoples.
From my heart to yours,
OMEC Board of Directors
It is with great reverence that we share the news that spiritual elder Don Carlos Barrios, author of The Book of Destiny, has departed from this physical plane.
Don Carlos died on the morning of Sunday, July 5, 2020. His 'change of form' coincided the energy of the full moon, lunar eclipse, and 'Guru Purnima', an annual tribute in the Hindu tradition to acknowledge enlightened teachers who selflessly offer to benefit humanity. Don Carlos was such a man.
The work of Carlos Barrios and his brother, Gerardo Barrios (d. 2011) not only brought the ancient Mayan teachings out to the world beyond the Maya-lands, it has been instrumental in helping indigenous Mayan communities reawaken to the vast wisdom of their ancestors.
on Carlos was a founding force with Saq' Be', an organization dedicated to Mayan and indigenous spiritual studies, and a vehicle to reignite the living Mayan traditions and share with the world in a way that honors its living lineage. He was a tireless support to the elders, traditions and wisdom of the Mayan people as well as to indigenous spiritual leaders around the world.
Llyn Cedar Roberts worked with Carlo's brother, Gerardo Barrios for years before his death in 2011. Her introduction to the Mayan energies and her first trip to Guatemala - were guided by Gerardo Barrios and spiritual guide, Mercedes Barrios Longfellow.
When Llyn was detained for a week during the border lockdown in Guatemala, she found herself lodging in the old colonial home where Don Carlos Barrios lived. This was an auspicious meeting that resulted in Don Carlos becoming one of the four groups of Mayan spiritual guides that OMEC raises funds for to support the Mayan elders to purchase ceremonial supplies to continue their traditional fire ceremonies, dating back more than 12,500 years. The ceremonies support harmony and healing for people and Mother Earth.
The beautiful and gentle and generous man, Don Carlos Barrios will be greatly missed by his family, including his two daughters, Denise and Solveig, and by his worldwide community. We offer prayers and light candles for his journey, as it continues. In the Mayan tradition there is never death, without rebirth.
OMEC also honors Don Carlos and his work by continuing efforts to encourage a sacred relationship with the Earth and to preserve the wisdom ways of ancient people.
OMEC is sending funds again very soon to support Mayan highland elders to purchase supplies for their fire ceremonies. This is especially important now, more than ever.
Thank you for your contributions to the Mayan Sacred Fire Fund.
From my heart to yours,
Lis Traphagen, OMEC board of directors
On our Guatemala trips, we work closely with Mayan spiritual guides, Dona María Ernestina Reyes and Don Marco Antonio Ramos N. I know many of you have met and grown close to them. These two elders are among four groups to which OMEC sends funds to help to purchase ceremonial supplies in the Mayan Sacred Fire Fund.
We respectfully share, below, beautiful words to all of us from Dona Maria Ernestina and Don Marco Antonio.
May their messages nourish you and support your path.
We thank you deeply for your support of this very important project. We would like to send more funds soon, thank you for donating to the
Mayan Sacred Fire Fund.
From my heart to yours,
"We are very grateful for the financial aid for the ceremonies. To date we have been making small offerings in our, thanks to the help of OMEC, we will add more materials in each ceremony.
We offer before this energy, first of all for thanks for our lives and the blessings received from the supreme creator and asking for forgiveness for mistakes made in life. Also requested for the light, peace and health of all humans and other living beings.
We believe that today more than taking into account the crisis of humanity worldwide, we must be more spiritual, that is why we have not stopped working with our ceremonies, because there we find the balance of our lives.
We reiterate our thanks to you and your organization."
"We are greeting you again, wishing you well. We want to share the ceremony held yesterday, Monday, June 8, 2020 with the sacred energy 13 Kemé; special day to ask for justice to the creator and the cosmic energies, for so many injustices against human life and other living beings on our planet. In this ceremony, this nahual was thanked for the blessings received in all aspects of life. We also reported to the Supreme Judge (Nahual Kemé) the murder committed against the spiritual guide Domingo Choc (from Petén). OMEC (and community) were present in our requests for blessing, thanks to their support we are using a little more material.
May our creator, the cosmic energies and our ancestors keep us all."
"We are also happy to share the ceremony on Sunday 21 of this month, before the energy of 13 Kawoq to greet the summer solstice, we enjoyed a sunny day, since in the previous days it was raining. Generally, in our ceremonies we emphasize asking for health, light, inner peace of each person and of the world. Because we believe that today more than ever, we need to be in harmony due to the current crisis. On our part, in the family we are well, by the grace of our creator."
"We are happy to know that we are united with the people who are praying, meditating and reflecting for the light, peace and health of the world, we are sure that we will move forward in the face of the world's adversities, our path is more spiritual."
Donate to the
Mayan Sacred Fire Fund
100% of your donation will be sent to Mayan spiritual guides to support them to purchase supplies for their traditional fire ceremonies, dating back almost 13,000 years.
Photo credit: Mitch Mattraw
In the Sacred Fire: A Reflection on My Journey to the Guatemala Highlands by Crystal Hawks
The fire's flames rise and fall with the waves of the shining lake behind us. I blink open my eyes to see my husband's shadow overlapping mine on the ground beneath my exposed feet. We left our home in the United States only a short time ago, but the frenetic buzz of city life, deadlines, and to-do lists already feel like a lifetime away. This isn't just a vacation to another country; this is an immersion into a completely different reality-a reality steeped in ancient Mayan fire ceremonies and the rhythms of the sacred Mayan calendar. It's here where fire communicates and heals, a single day stretches into weeks, and boundaries across space and time blur. I ask myself once again the same question I have asked every day since I arrived, "Is this a dream?"
I scan the group of travelers encircling the fire that flashes wildly in the center. We chose to embark on this journey into the Guatemala Highlands together-a journey into the mystery of time outside of time and magical rituals passed down for thousands of years. I've only just met these people, but we've quickly plunged past the superficial minutiae that infuses most early encounters. In fact, we're beyond words at this point. There's no need for stories or opinions anymore. We can simply be together in the eternal present, surrounded by the magnificent energy of Lake Atitlan-an energy that is alive and in deep relationship with all of us. We communicate with one another and with the spirits of this place in a language only understood by the heart. Everything feels the connection to everything else.
Each of us hold a colorful assortment of candles close to our chest and watch the fire's hypnotic dance. A choir of birds sing piercing tunes that reverberate off of the towering volcano that looms in the distance. The Mayan elders chant, lift their gazes to the sun, stretch their arms wide, and then pour forward to feed the fire. I begin to weep. I used to try to fabricate otherworldly experiences like this with mind-bending substances that sent me spinning into altered states. For years, I sought a connection to myself and a greater power, chasing one fleeting experience after another and turning up empty handed every time. Here I am now, years into my healing journey, and I find myself recovering pieces that were lost in the wreckage of my past. Like tectonic plates fusing back together after a thousand years apart, I'm starting to feel my totality-the wholeness of myself and of Spirit.
I walk toward the fire to offer it the bundle of candles that represent all of my fear and pain. The fire doesn't judge the offering. It welcomes everything. A cloud of smoke builds around my body before feathering into tendrils that slowly disappear. Clarity crawls in to illuminate undiscovered corners of my awareness. Restrictive delusions I've held as truths begin to fade, burned by flames and transformed into dissipating smoke. My old lens of seeing the world shatters, and I truly open my eyes for the first time as the smoke clears. When I return to my place in the circle for the final cleansing, the smell of ambrosial incense greets me-signaling that a new beginning has come.
And indeed, a new beginning has come, not just for me, but for all of us. Since the world was set ablaze with the loss, economic uncertainty, and fear of sickness from the COVID-19 Pandemic, we've been in the fire. The time for transmutation has come. The past is behind us. Life will not be the same. We offer the flames our fears, our old and harmful patterns, our hope for a better future. And as the fire casts shadows against the backdrop of a setting sun and purifies past realities, may we embrace the heat and expand.
I invite you to take time to explore how OMEC can support you to transform and expand through programs, books, and projects. We have already accomplished so much in 2020.
The book by Pacific Northwest tribal master-storyteller, Johnny Moses - The Medicine Clothes that Look at the People - listed as #1 New Release in Native American Religion on amazon, is out in August. Pre-order the book now!
Our most recent project contributes to the purchase of fire ceremony supplies for Maya spiritual guides in four distinct regions in the Guatemalan Highlands.
Thank you for supporting The Mayan Sacred Fire Fund.
Your donations help keep the Maya sacred fires burning. Contribute now so OMEC can send funds to purchase supplies for June Solstice Fire Ceremonies in Guatemala.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your interest and, importantly, for your financial support!
From my heart to yours,
Crystal Hawks, OMEC Board Member